Following a heart attack, new blood vessels are formed during the healing and remodeling process. In order to encourage healing, therapies for post-heart attack recovery have focused on enhancing factors that induce new blood vessel growth, but evaluation of the efficacy of these strategies is difficult due to the lack of accurate means to measure the thera-peutic effect. Now, Sinusas and colleagues, by radioactively labeling a protein that is present specifically in newly developing blood vessels (a protein called avB3 integrin), have found they could actually track the process of blood vessel growth in the hearts of rat and canine heart-attack models using standard tomography methods.
By taking multiple, timed images of the heart, the authors could detect changes in the presence of the marker-protein in the areas damaged during the heart attack. They found that this marker specifically increased in these damaged areas as new blood vessels developed, and allowed clear view of changes in the damaged area over time. Since this method is both non-invasive and uses standard imaging technology, it is an ideal new tool for monitoring changes of damaged areas in patients after a heart attack and during therapeutic trials of potential drugs to enhance such healing.